Throughout my life, I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Japan multiple times! Being half Japanese, and having dual citizenship, it is a country I have always loved visiting. My parents took my brother and I back again this past May, and it was one of my favorite trips there. I think I am finally at the age where I am able to appreciate the culture even more and appreciate that part of me. This was a super special trip getting to meet my little cousins and travel around with a wider eye and larger perspective.
I have so much that I would love to say about Japan, and while I’m not sure how many segments I could break this into, I’ve decided to focus on the food, from this last trip, for this post. There are so many incredible Japanese foods to experience, but here is a little snippet from my last trip! I’m no food expert, by any means, but I will definitely do my best to explain them, with the knowledge that I have!
Ramen is a dish that has become super trendy in the US. I feel like it’s not something that is as foreign as some of these other dishes. If you haven’t had ramen, it’s basically a seasoned broth with noodles and different toppings. There are so many different broth flavors that are offered at different places; general flavors are miso, soy, and spicy miso. Most of them come with pork, a soft-boiled egg, and seaweed. Some other common toppings are green onions, bamboo shoots, fish cake, as well as various other things such as corn, crispy garlic, or bean sprouts. It’s a hearty meal that fills you up and if you need more noodles for your broth, a lot of places will allow you to buy an extra bowl of noodles.
This specific bowl of ramen was from a small restaurant right below where we were staying (at my uncle’s house). It was kind of like a vending machine, where you select which ramen you wanted, paid the machine, then received a little ticket that you would bring it up to the counter and they would prepare it for you. There’s ramen restaurants all over Japan and it’s hard to go wrong with ramen. This is a dish that even picky eaters can enjoy!
ONIGIRI and WAKAME SENBEI (seaweed cracker)
These are two snacks that are common in Japan. Onigiri is basically a rice ball. The rice ball can be grilled, wrapped in seaweed, or filled with different things such as salmon, tempura shrimp, or umeboshi (pickled plum). This specific onigiri was filled with seasoned kelp. This is one of my favorites, you can find these in almost any Japanese market, even Seven Elevens in Japan. The other snack pictured is a dried seaweed snack. There’s toasted sesame seeds on them and they are sweet and crispy. There’s a lot of dried snacks in Japan such as dried fish, dried squid, and dried seaweed. You can find them almost anywhere and they are a fun, quick, on-the-go snack.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
One place I recommend visiting is Tsukiji Fish Market. This is the place to go if you want to experience any and all Japanese food. There are so many things to see and try. Stands are set up and you can spend half a day wandering around trying different foods. Every morning the boats come in with the fresh fish and if you get there early enough, you can catch them auctioning off the fish. You can find fresh fish, fresh fruit, dried snacks, traditional Japanese knives, fresh wasabi (as pictured in the bottom right corner), green tea ice cream, fresh noodles, sushi, onigiri, and so much more. There are so many fun things to try and you should go with an open mind and empty tummy!
Somehow I forgot to take an after picture of the okonomiyaki, but this is a dish that is the equivalent of a Japanese vegetable pancake. The batter is mixed in with shredded cabbage and carrots. You have options to choose what other fillings you want such as pork, shrimp, squid, mochi, cheese, or beef. It is cooked all the way through and usually topped with a sweet sauce, fish flakes, and seaweed. Sometimes Japanese mayonnaise is drizzled over the top as well.
There’s usually a difference in okonomiyaki restaurants based on cooking style. Many restaurants have a skillet at each table and they give you the ingredients and then you cook it yourself, they will definitely help you if you need it though! Other places will cook it for you and bring it out for you to enjoy.
This restaurant was absolutely amazing. You have to be a sushi lover or extremely adventurous. Our Aunt and Uncle took us out to this restaurant one night and asked for the chef’s choice. The main sushi chef decided what our meal would consist of and we worked our way through six delicious courses of fresh fish.
The first dish consisted of Uni (sea urchin), Ikura (salmon roe), Kani (crab), and Hamachi (yellowtail). You took a little spoonful, put it on a piece of dried seaweed to create a little roll, and ate it!
This next course was a bunch of delicious sashimi served over ice so that it would stay super cold. The different types were fugu skin (this is the skin of a blowfish, it’s extremely dangerous to consume unless prepared properly, as the meat of the fish contains poison), hamachi (yellowtail tuna), kazunoko (herring roe). meguro (tuna), and saba (mackerel).
These were the third, fourth, and fifth courses.
We ended the meal with miso soup, which is super common in the US, at many Japanese restaurants. Usually, they start meals with miso soup, but we ended ours with it at this restaurant.
This is one of my favorite Japanese meals. There is a burner on the table in front of you and they bring you pot full of broth. They bring plates based on your order filled with different vegetables and meats. The name of this food originally came from the idea that you could put the food in this boiling pot, say “shabu shabu”, and then it would be cooked and ready to eat. In reality, it takes a little longer than that; however, it cooks pretty quickly, then you have two sauces to choose from to dip in. One is a sesame based sauce and the other is a ponzu soy based sauce. You are usually served rice with this meal as well!
Takoyaki is a Japanese street food dish. It is basically a ball of batter that has a piece of octopus on the inside. It is cooked on a griddle with holes in it, as shown in the upper lefthand picture. They usually top it with a sweet sauce similar to the okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and bonito flakes.
TEMPURA & UDON
These are two dishes that are extremely common in the US and can be found pretty much anywhere in Japan. The tempura is basically vegetables and shrimp, battered and fried. Udon are thicker noodles that you dip into a sauce. They can be served hot or cold.
KATSUDON (pork over rice) & UDON
Katusdon is basically a cut of pork that is battered and fried with panko bread crumbs. It is then cooked with egg and onions and laid over rice.
These last few desserts were at a cute little matcha cafe. There’s matcha ice cream, matcha hot tea, different types of mochi and oshiruko (red bean soup).
This was just a super simple and small glimpse into some of the Japanese food that you can experience while you are there! There are so many delicious things to try and you don’t have to feel to guilty eating all the time because you walk everywhere there! Usually 8-10 miles a day if you are out and about sightseeing. I hope this was a fun little guide into some of the delicious things you can try in Japan!